How “small errors” drive away donors

Here’s something you seldom have access to: A detailed account of how and why a committed donor goes away from a once-favored charity. The Michael Rosen Says blog, at 10 Tips to Save You from Becoming a Horrible Warning. You need to read this.

Donors lapse off your file all the time. It’s inevitable. It often has nothing to do with you. But sometimes, it’s your fault. This is that case.

Rosen had extremely strong reasons for supporting this charity — he’s literally in danger of going blind unless this cause goes well. He was generous over the years. But the organization couldn’t get the relationship right.

They screwed up the donor’s data. They kept calling after he asked them not to call. The asked for inappropriate amounts (too low!). Their communications were sloppy and hard to read (sans-serif font). They didn’t return calls. When he talked to the development director, he was defensive and argumentive.

Rosen finally gave up. Now, when he wants to support that cause, he’s going to have to do some serious leg-work. But he figures it’s better than dealing with an organization that treats him wrong.

When you look at this sad story from the nonprofit’s point of view, you might find yourself saying, “That’s only a small error. Anyone might have made that mistake.”

And that’s the problem. The organization probably has no clue of their part in driving away a long-term major donor.

Details matter. When it comes to serving donors, you have to sweat the small stuff. And we are in the customer service business, like it or not.


Comments

6 responses to “How “small errors” drive away donors”

  1. Jeff, thank you very much for taking an interest in my blog post “10 Tips to Save You from Becoming a Horrible Warning” (http://wp.me/p1h0KY-6z). I appreciate your support. You and your readers might be interested to learn that I received a reminder letter from the Foundation because I said I’d “consider” a pledge. The letter was still wrongly addressed to my wife and still asked for too little! These were the same mistakes I pointed out to the Chief Development Officer and that I outlined in my post. To make matters even worse, at about the same time, I received a direct mail solicitation from the Foundation that was addressed to me (since they seem incapable of merging records). It’s simply quite amazing! By the way, although the Foundation is aware of my blog post, they have not yet contacted me directly about it. Oh well.

  2. Jeff, thank you very much for taking an interest in my blog post “10 Tips to Save You from Becoming a Horrible Warning” (http://wp.me/p1h0KY-6z). I appreciate your support. You and your readers might be interested to learn that I received a reminder letter from the Foundation because I said I’d “consider” a pledge. The letter was still wrongly addressed to my wife and still asked for too little! These were the same mistakes I pointed out to the Chief Development Officer and that I outlined in my post. To make matters even worse, at about the same time, I received a direct mail solicitation from the Foundation that was addressed to me (since they seem incapable of merging records). It’s simply quite amazing! By the way, although the Foundation is aware of my blog post, they have not yet contacted me directly about it. Oh well.

  3. Details are just as important as any other part of a fundraising campaign. Thanks for this healthy reminder about why we always need to pay attention to the little things.

  4. Details are just as important as any other part of a fundraising campaign. Thanks for this healthy reminder about why we always need to pay attention to the little things.

  5. Jeff, I just want to thank you for consistently producing content that makes me think, and apply to my own line of work.
    Know that this is greatly appreciated.

  6. Jeff, I just want to thank you for consistently producing content that makes me think, and apply to my own line of work.
    Know that this is greatly appreciated.

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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